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Report: Big Price Hikes Widespread in Pharma

Daraprim isn’t the only offender

A new survey of approximately 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs has found that prices more than doubled for 60 and at least quadrupled for 20 since December 2014. The survey was conducted by DRX, a provider of price-comparison software to health plans.

Leading the list of medications with the biggest price increases was Daraprim (pyrimethamine, Turing Pharmaceuticals), with its infamous 5,500% hike, according to a report from BloombergBusiness. Another major price-buster was Novacort (hydrocortisone/pramoxine, Novum Pharma), a treatment for infectious dermatoses, with a 3,000% increase. Alcortin A (Primus Pharmaceuticals), a combination antibiotic and steroid gel (iodoquinol/hydrocortisone) to treat eczema and skin infections, was in third place, with a price jump of 1,860%.

Other drugs with big price hikes include Lithostat (acetohydroxamic acid), Zestril (lisinopril), Glumetza (extended-release metformin), and Isuprel (isoproterenol).

Even after soaring prices became an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, the cost of many drugs has continued to rise at annual rates of more than 10%. “The data show that price increases are an integral part of the business plan,” Jim Yocum, executive vice president at DRX, told BloombergBusiness.

Among recent increases by the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies is AstraZeneca’s blockbuster cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin), up 15% ahead of the arrival of a generic version in May. AstraZeneca said that it decides on price changes annually based on market conditions, a common industry practice.

Pfizer raised prices for 24 drugs by 12% or more in the past two months, with Viagra (sildenafil) increasing by approximately 13% and two heart drugs rising by 44% and 86%. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline increased prices by 15% on 22 products over the past two months, including Lamictal XR (extended-release lamotrigene) for epilepsy, according to the DRX survey.

Among cancer medications that doubled in price is the leukemia drug Oncaspar (pegaspargase), which Baxalta Inc. boosted by 125% after acquiring it from Sigma-Tau Finanziaria. Baxalta said that the price adjustment will help fund testing of new formulations, and that it plans to pursue clinical research to explore the benefits of Oncaspar in other cancers.

The recent national scrutiny of drug pricing is only going to increase after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton vowed again to crack down on companies that “gouge patients with pricing” in a January 28 tweet, Bloomberg said.

Source: BloombergBusiness; February 2, 2016.

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